Friday, May 27, 2011

Theatre Royal, Barkerville. May 2011 Photos

Theatre Royal, Barkerville. May 2011 photos


For a selection of rehearsal and show photos from this season's Spring show, Rough But Honest Miner, taken by Richard Wright go to:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/richardtwright/

For information on use of these photos contact: Richard Wright through the Theatre Royal website.


Copyright 2011, Richard Wright

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Rough But Honest Miner: Music in Barkerville and the Cariboo Goldfields 1860-1881



 Teaming Up the Cariboo Road

Here comes Henry Currie, he’s always in a hurry
Teamin’ up the Cariboo Road.
He makes his horses go, through the dust and through the snow
Teamin’ up the Cariboo Road.
You should see him sprintin’, to the ball at Clinton
Teamin’ up the Cariboo Road.
He makes the ladies prance, just like his horses dance
Teamin’ up the Cariboo Road.

When you hear that whip a-poppin’, you bet he’s got a load.
When you hear that sweet voice singin’
“Stand up rowdy on the Cariboo Road!”

Pete Egan as a rule, to his horses he is cruel
Teamin’ up the Cariboo Road.
He beats them with a rail, puts fire in their tail
Teamin’ up the Cariboo Road.
Old Pete he looks so wicked when you ask him for a ticket
Teamin’ up the Cariboo Road.
At the sight of half-a-dollar, he will grab you by the collar
Teamin’ up the Cariboo Road.

When you hear that whip a-poppin’, you bet he’s got a load.
When you hear that sweet voice singin’
“Stand up rowdy on the Cariboo Road!”

The driver’s on the deck, with a rag around his neck
Teamin’ up the Cariboo Road.
While the swamper’s in the stable makin’ sure the teams are able
Teamin’ up the Cariboo Road.
When the roads are in a mire then the freighters earn their hire
Teamin’ up the Cariboo Road.
But they can beat the weather, when they all pull together
Teamin’ up the Cariboo Road.


When you hear that whip a-poppin’, you bet he’s got a load.
When you hear that sweet voice singin’
“Stand up rowdy on the Cariboo Road!”
When you hear that whip a-poppin’, you bet he’s got a load.
When you hear that sweet voice singin’
Stand up rowdy on the Cariboo Road!”[i]


When miners rushed to the gold discoveries of Cariboo in the early 1860s, they hacked and hollowed, tumbled and tunneled, forever changing the physical landscape.. Creeks were diverted, pits hydrauliced, camps slapped up and towns built that still survive today.
            The miner's trails were followed by a multitude of merchants, from suppliers of goods to saloonkeepers, gamblers, prostitutes, artists and musical producers. Together these people also created a culture which for the most part has been unrecognized, uncelebrated. A significant part of that culture was music and songs performed and written in towns like Camerontown, Richfield, Antler Creek, Mosquito Creek, Quesnelle Forks, Quesnelle mouth and Barkerville.
            So, where is Cariboo? The Cariboo is the south central portion, the interior, of British Columbia, a province on Canada’s west coast. The province of BC is larger than Austria, Germany and France combined - throw in England and you are about right.  The Cariboo region is about 300 kms by 75 kms – 22,500 sq kms. A little smaller than Austria. Austria has eight million people. The Cariboo - 67,000. From the seaport and capital of Victoria where gold seekers began their journey, to the goldfields of Cariboo is 900 km, the same as Innsbruck to London, England. And in the early years of the gold rush they certainly did not take a stagecoach driven by Henry Currie – they walked for weeks.
            The Cariboo is bunchgrass country, cedar river valleys, spruce and redtop swamp meadows, pine and balsam-root foothills and fir and bear grass mountains. There's gold there. We call it God's country. It's actually a state of mind.
            If you were to visit the old mining camps of Cariboo today, you would not likely hear the old songs. You would more likely hear bluegrass, or old time fiddlers, or a blues band.  What we have come to call bunchgrass music and culture is there, but you have to look for it.  It will come from leather-beaten faces and work-worn hands, from people dressed in work clothes and felt packs, folks who had taken a day from cattle ranching or logging to sing a few songs at the pub or a local festival, from a mandolin players with the same number of fingers on two hands that most people have on one, or a guitar player with raw knuckles or a sliced hand.
            From these folks you might hear some real Cariboo music, but not the old songs. When we sing the old songs at the Theatre Royal, which we operate in the historic town of Barkerville, songs like "Teaming Up the Cariboo Road" the question is often:
            "Where did you get these songs?" We think this is a polite question. -- Where did we get them? Where did they come from?
Richard has been writing about the Cariboo since 1970 and gradually from journals, letters, diaries and newspapers a few file cards with notes on musical references grew to a bundle. That bundle of cards became an electronic database. A few years ago he produced a CD "Rough But Honest Miner" and a book, "Castles in the Air".
           

            You won't hear most of these songs very often. They have been buried, like the gold that inspired them. But the songs are there, hidden away in old documents, such as John Clapperton's journal, where he records at Loch Lomond House on the Cariboo Road in 1864 that " At night we heard some good Scotch songs; I was much pleased with the rendition of 'Friendship has brought us a’ togither'., and 'Aye she turned the spinning wheel.' Had there been bagpipes with the singing, I believe we would all have been as nimble as cats." [ii]
            A most recent discovery, and musical mystery, are a couple of lines from an 1862 letter by Cariboo miner Doug Bogart, who writes:
            “The only consolation I had on nights when we all were tired was to sit down and sing to them, ‘sad was the day we went away, a hunting of the gold’ and one of Ross's Clerks, would sing, ‘we did not find it was a sell until we got to Forks of Quesnelle, look way to Cariboo’.”
            Where are the rest of the words? Was the last song sung to the tune of Dixie?:
“We did not find it was a sell,
Until we got to the Forks of Quesnelle,
Look way, Look way, Look away to Cariboo.”
            The rhyme and meter might make us think so. Perhaps we'll never know.
 You see the problem is this. We can find music hall, theatre songs and some parlour songs in newspaper reviews, advertisements and announcements for theatres and saloons.  We have James Anderson's book of poems and songs. Anderson was educated at Scotland's Dollar Academy. He came from a landed-family with several estates. Yet in 1863 he inexplicably left a wife and year-old son and an extensive family estate in Clackmannanshire to search for Cariboo gold. He stayed 9 years. Anderson became the miner’s poet laurete.  He was their voice.
            We have his writings and we have some manuscript collections, even a few pieces of BC gold rush sheet music such as the "Fraser River Mines Schottische". But except for a few instances such as Bogart's letter and the odd diary we do not have notes of what folks sang around the campfire or the reading room table.
            It is like a few of us getting together tonight to swap ballads or jam. Who will write down what we sing? Likely no one. So, our knowledge of the music of Cariboo is limited and biased at best.


James Anderson after his return to Scotland.  Richard Wright collection.

            The Cariboo music scene of the 1860s-80s, which centered on Barkerville, was vivid and lively. The Anglican Rev. Reynard of St. Savior's church had a small band or orchestra that played for various events. Miner Samuel Drake was pressed into service when Reynard heard him whistling the Messiah while he worked on a gold claim.
            Reynard's "band" or "orchestra" was made up of whatever instruments he could borrow or beg or whatever a miner happened to have.  In 1870 he wrote "the band consists of a clarinet, two flutes, cornet and bassoon. I preside at the piano." Their repetoire was mainly light classics and sacred music. Reynard also wrote music for the orchestra and for some of the songs or poems Williams Creek residents wrote, such as Talisen Evans who wrote under the bardic name Tal. O Eifion. He wrote:

O, give me a Cot.
O, give me a cot on the slope of a hill,
'Neath the shade of an old oaken tree,
By the side of a sparkling and roaring rill,
Within sight of the deep briny sea;"

            The music Reynard wrote has not survived--or should we say has not yet been found. Not surprisingly, it is from clergy such as Rev. Reynard or Cariboo’s Bishop Hills that we learn which hymns were popular. For example Hills records on  August 19, 1862, at the funeral of John Emmory:
“At the conclusion I delivered an address endeavoring to make the occasion profitable to all present – after which the hymn “O God our help in ages past,” and The Blessing," were sung.

            The antithesis of the houses of worship, and far more popular, were the saloons and hurdy dance houses. Briefly, the hurdies were contract dancehall girls, mostly from Hessen, Germany, paid to dance with miners.  Many stayed and married miners and merchants. The name is thought to come from the hurdy gurdy instrument, which they danced to in Germany.  We have found no reference to the instrument being used in any North American gold rush.
            For years many folks wondered what music they danced to. What was it really like? Recently a collection of 1864 love letters was found – from Robert Burrell in Barkerville to Miss McKenzie in Victoria. Remarkably, Burrell wrote in a style that we would now call “stream of consciousness.”
This is Sunday night and on the opposite side of the street there are no less than three Hurdy Gurdy or dancing houses in full blast - two of them are occupied by German dancing girls--four in each- and the third by Squaws [First Naions}. Just now the "Silver Lakes Varsovianna" is ringing in my ears and the noise and music is carried on every night till four and sometimes six in the morning.
If I am at all out of sorts I find it quite impossible to sleep -- The "King of the Cannibal Islands" has just struck up -- fancy such a place. .... It has been raining dreadfully all day -- there goes "Lucy Long",-- and I like it better than the hot days. I board now at the French Hotel at Richfield and walk up and down about half a mile twice and sometimes three times a day -- the "Sultan Polka" and the "Edinburgh Quadrille" at the same time from the from the White Hurdies -- and often stay up there all day.

Finally, we knew some of the music played in the dance houses by fiddlers such as Nelson, George Baillie and Frank Wigglesworth. The question now is what did these fiddlers play after the dance was over, and how did their own style, Baillie was a Scot for instance, affect the hurdy music?


The Hurdies of Barkerville, about 1864.

            The goldfields culture was based on gold and the miners who came here in hopes of wealth. Miners who more often labored for wages and in many cases became destitute. On the mining claims men like James Anderson and J. Lawrence, an American ex-slave, were writing songs and poetry that give us a window into a place and time not otherwise seen.
            Anderson’s popularity and encore performances at the Theatre Royal of the 1860s, with songs such as “The Rough But Honest Miner”, show that miners believed that he "got it right" with his descriptions of the mining processes. Yet he was also able to infuse his songs with the normally unspoken hopes and dreams, doubts and failures of miners as they “hunted after gold.”
            Anderson took the tune and the phrase "Castles in the Air" from a song by James Ballantine, who borrowed the tune from the earlier "Bonny Jean of Aberdeen", a tune used at least 13 times in Scots songs. He turned this into his classic enduring gold rush song.

The Rough But Honest Miner


The rough but honest miner, wha toils night and day,
Seeking for the yellow gold, hid among the clay-ay
Hawkin’ on the mountain-side, what he does there _
Aa! The old "dreamer’s buildin' castles in the air".
His leather beaten face, an' his sair-worn hands
Are tell-tales to a' of the hardship that he stands;
His head may grow grey and his face full of care,
Hunting after gold, "With its castles in the air."



He sees the old channel, buried in the hill
Filled full of nuggets--so goes at it with a will-
For long weeks and months, driftin’ late and air'--,
Cutting out a door to his "castle in the air"--
He hammers at the rock, believin’ it’s a rim,
When ten to one ‘tis--nothing but his fancy’s whim
Sure when he gets through, he’ll find his home-stake there;
There’s miners more than one, built this "castle in the air".

He thinks his "pile" is made, and he’s goin’ home gin fall--
He joins his dear old mother, his father, friends and all
His heart e'en jumps with joy, at the thoughts of bein’ there,
There’s many a happy minute "buildin’ castles in the air.".
But hopes that promised high, in the spring time o' the year,
Like leaves o' autumn fall when the frost o' winter’s near.
So his buildin’ tumbles down with each blast o’ care,
‘Til there’s not a "stone left standin," of his "castle in the air."

"Toiling and sorrowing, on thro' life he goes;
Each morning sees some work begun, each evening sees it close"
But he has aye the grit, tho' his "tum-tum" may be sair,
For another year is coming, with its "castles in the air".
Tho' fortune may not smile, upon his labors here,
There is a world above, where his prospects will be clear
If he now accept the offer, of a stake beyond compare
A happy home for all, with a "castle in the air".

That was Anderson’s set up of the miner, his weariness, but his dream of a castle or at least a farm, in his home county. Now he tells us what a miner looks for and how he works:

He sees the old channel, buried in the hill
Filled full of nuggets--so goes at it with a will-
For long weeks and months, driftin’ late and air'--,
Cutting out a door to his "castle in the air"--
He hammers at the rock, believin’ it’s a rim,
When ten to one ‘tis--nothing but his fancy’s whim
Sure when he gets through, he’ll find his home-stake there;
There’s miners more than one, built this "castle in the air".

He thinks his "pile" is made, and he’s goin’ home gin fall--
He joins his dear old mother, his father, friends and all
His heart e'en jumps with joy, at the thoughts of bein’ there,
There’s many a happy minute "buildin’ castles in the air.".
But hopes that promised high, in the spring time o' the year,
Like leaves o' autumn fall when the frost o' winter’s near.
So his buildin’ tumbles down with each blast o’ care,
‘Til there’s not a "stone left standin," of his "castle in the air."

"Toiling and sorrowing, on thro' life he goes;
Each morning sees some work begun, each evening sees it close"
But he has aye the grit, tho' his "tum-tum" may be sair,
For another year is coming, with its "castles in the air".
Tho' fortune may not smile, upon his labors here,
There is a world above, where his prospects will be clear
If he now accept the offer, of a stake beyond compare
A happy home for all, with a "castle in the air".


            Anderson also wrote what is likely the first labour poem of British Columbia, "The Song of the Mines", inspired by Thomas Hood's 1843 poem "Song of the Shirt”, which helped prompt changes in the English textile trade.

Song of the Shirt
With fingers weary and worn,
With eyelids heavy and red,
A Woman sat, in unwomanly rags,
Plying her needle and thread--
Stitch! Stitch! Stitch!
In poverty, hunger, and dirt,
And still with the voice of dolorous pitch
She sang the "Song of the Shirt!"

Anderson wrote:
Drift! Drift! Drift!
From the early morn till night
Drift! Drift! Drift!
From twilight till broad-day light
With pick and crow-bar and sledge
Breaking a hard gravel face;
In slum, and water and muck
Working with face-board and brace;
Main set, false set, and main set--
Repeated, shift after shift--
Day after day the same song--
The same wearisome Song of the Drift.

            Anderson’s many songs and poems, give us insights into gold camp social aspects and the miners labourious work.
            Similarly there was black poet Rebecca Gibbs, a Barkerville washerwoman who wrote extensively on social ills and miner's woes. She is perhaps best known for her poem Old Red Shirt.

A miner came to my cabin door,
His clothes they were covered with dirt;
He held out a piece he desired me to wash,
Which I found was an old red shirt ….

In the cold hard land of the gold creeks it might seem strange to think of miner's sitting down by candle light to write love songs, but love, tragedy and affairs were all part of life. A miner nicknamed Chips wrote "Lover's Lament" about his lost Annie, to the tune of  the US Civil War song Katy Wells  and a mine known "Mosquito", also the name of a camp, wrote about Mary, whom he tried to entice to live with him.

Oh, Mary, dear Mary, come home with me now;
The sleigh from Mosquito has come.
You promised to live in my little board house
As soon as the pap’ring was done.
The fire burns brightly in the sheet-iron stove
And the bed is made up by the wall.
But it’s lonesome, you know, these long winter nights
With no one to love me at all.

            "Mary Come Home" is one of the most interesting songs to come out of the Cariboo gold rush. The 1864 tune is borrowed from Henry Clay Work’s "Father Come Home". The song illustrates several things about the time and culture and is one of the few songs to include Chinook phrases – a trade language formed from several aboriginal and European languages.
            For instance: Mosquito was a town several miles northwest of  Barkerville, and the pseudonym of the writer. At the time this song was written it was a new town with a rough road connecting to Barkerville. The author is wintering here so he is a partner or claim owner. Given his promises he is not too destitute to leave.
            Mosquito is a prosperous miner with a house built of milled lumber.  He is not in a brush tent, a canvas tent, a rooming house or a log cabin, all of which were more common. He has the money and the inclination to paper the walls-- and has a real bed. Mary, it appears, could make a worse choice.
So it continues for four verses.
A simple song with a ore car of cultural information.

            At Barkerville's Theatre Royal there were the travelling music hall and minstrel shows such as Lafont and Ward's Troupe, the McGinty Family and the Potter Troupe.  They introduced audiences to songs like "Listen to the Mocking Bird", "Do They Miss Me At Home," Stephen Foster melodies like "Hard Times Come Again no more" and many other songs popular during the Civil War and the following decades.
Another showman on the creeks in 1878 was none other than "Captain Jack" the poet scout -- John Wallace Crawford, a showman/cowboy/miner and sometime partner of William “Buffalo Bill” Cody. Crawford was a playwright, poet and showman famous in the North American west. He lived for two seasons in Barkerville travelling in his "show wagon" with a company of singers and actors. He wrote many poems and a few songs based on his Cariboo experiences. The Barkerville death of friends such as Thomas Pattulo was likely the initial inspiration for his poem "Only a Miner Killed", later to become "Only a Miner" then "Only a Cowboy" and still later Bob Dylan's hit "Only a Hobo."[iii]

Only a miner killed --oh is that all?
One of the timbers caved, great was the fall,
Crushing another one shaped like his God.
Only a miner lad under the sod.
 
            The transmigration of songs from other countries and cultures is also evident in journals and letters, such as when overlander Robert McMicking writes down the words to "Yellow Rose of Texas" and "Happy are we Tonight" in his 1862 journal.
We can hear the British Royal Engineers singing songs from the Crimean War and other battle fields, the blacks singing of southern slavery, the Scots of their home land, the 24 Welsh Adventurers joining in vocal harmonies, and the German dancing girls and Austrian miners singing their own songs.
            We find broadsheets of Civil War songs from saloons, sheet music collections quickly mailed up from the U.S. or "Pretty Polly Perkins from Paddington Green" shipped over from England.  And those tunes are used for other songs.
            In these documents we also learn of the instruments played: the bones, banjo, violin, bombardon, harmonium, cornet, melodeon, and the concertina, that did double duty by scaring off a bear.

  While I sit and write, the bones are sounding on one side, the fiddle on another, the banjo on another, the Cornocopean and Saric horn peal forth their notes together with 12 or 14 of the best singers that I ever heard.”
            Dobson Prest, in camp at Fort Edmonton, July 22nd, 1862, on an overland journey to Cariboo.

            James Anderson finally left in 1871, like most miners and merchants, as gold production, the towns and the populations were waning. When the first cold winds of winter blew down the valley, he wrote:

Cold Cariboo, farewell
I write it with a sad and heavy heart;
You've treated me so roughly that I feel,
Tis hard to part.

T'was all I asked of thee,
One handful of thy plenteous golden grain,
Hads't thou but yielded, I'd have sung "Farewell!"
And home again."

But, time on time, defeat!
Ah, cold and cruel, callous Cariboo!
Have eight years honest perservering toil
No more of you?
….

            The 1870s and 80s were the end of big gold strikes in Cariboo. And while gold rush material culture and social culture lived on, the music faded.
Some dance tunes from the saloons and hurdy houses were still being played by second generation Cariboo musicians at places like the Clinton Ball in the 1920s and 30s, but, no one was singing the songs of Anderson, Gibbs, Lawrence or Chips.
            However, on the stage of the Theatre Royal in Barkerville you will still hear them. In some sense, however, we like to think that those old songs and tunes are reflected in the music we hear today in Cariboo pubs and living rooms, from the loggers, ranchers and cowboys who still make their own music. In them we hear the echo of gold rush voices.
            The old music of the Cariboo gold rush exists on paper and in a few modern recordings, but as live music it has faded into the past.
This music and its cultural messages, its stories, like all traditional music, needs to be recognized, revived, and recorded. They are our cultural gems and an important part of cultural tourism.
            Fortunately Newman & Wright Theatre Company are able to keep this segment of our story alive on the Theatre Royal stage in gold rush Barkerville, British Columbia, where travelers interested in the music of cultural tourism can still hear these wonderful old songs.

 This is the second of two papers delivered by Richard Wright and Amy Newman at: On the Surface: The Heritage of Mines and Mining at the University of Innsbruck, Austria, in April 2011.  It will be published in the proceedings of the conference. Attendance at the conference brought Barkerville and the Cariboo gold rush to the attention of a world wide audience and opened many doors for research and presentations for Newman and Wright Theatre Co.



[i] Collected by Philip J. Thomas
[ii] Clapperton, John, "Jottings from our First 7 Years in British Columbia." BCARS ECC53.3. May 13th 1864
[iii] Miller, Darlis A., Captain Jack Crawford , University of New Mexico Press, 1993.
Also, Moses diaries, BCARS and BVHP

Copywrite 2011 Richard T. Wright

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Cultural Tourism at Theatre Royal, Barkerville


     
Richard Wright and Amy Newman presenting papers at "On The Surface: The Heritage of Mines and Mining" at the University of Innsbruck, Austria.


In gold rush towns around the world theatre was a social necessity, not a luxury.  Miners working in dark, damp, dangerous shafts and drifts wanted, demanded and needed to be diverted.  Gold extraction had just begun when theatre troupes and entertainers arrived on the creeks, and theatres and opera houses were soon being thrown up..
            The gold rushes of the mid 1800s, from Georgia to California, Oregon and Montana in the US, to New Zealand and Australia and then the various rushes in British Columbia, resulted in not only a wealth of mining knowledge but also a gold rush society. Men from California imported their skills to BC, Cornish miners brought the Roman water wheel to California and BC and women from Australia and England set up saloons in BC. Over and over we find that many of these folks knew each other from previous rushes and formed a cohesive society.
         These prospectors and seekers of wealth were pioneers, but they should not be confused with those who came to settle. They came to rip the earth apart, strip the wealth and head home to build a business or a farm.
         Yet we find that the two buildings that were among the first to go up in gold rush town were a church and a theatre. Miners needed entertainment
         Barkerville went through three development phases. The first was the pre-Cariboo road phase from 1860 to 1865, when transportation was by foot, with goods brought in by horses, mules and camels. Then in response to petitions and lobbying the colonial government agreed that a road was needed, a road to access the sudden and immense Cariboo wealth.
         The road, engineered by a detachment of England’s Royal Engineers, took several years to build, but the route began a new phase of Cariboo development, one when travel was easier, with wagons and stagecoaches. Life was easier and richer. Barkerville’s Cariboo Amature Dramatic Association formed in 1865, three years after gold was first discovered on the creek, when a few folks got together in the Parlour Saloon to produce and perform musical variety shows and farces in the Parlour Saloon.
         Then came the so-called great fire of 1868. On September 18, Barkerville burned to the ground in a matter of a couple of hours. But enough townsfolk wanted to stay that within hours rebuilding began.
         A theatre rose from the ashes. They could have called it the Phoenix, like Florence Wilson’s saloon next door. The CADA decided that as the Parlour Saloon was gone it was time to build a real theatre.  The problem was there was no money. Coincidently, with great 20/20 hindsight, the town decided to expand their fire department. Edward Howman, a civil engineer from England, came up with a plan – a single building to house the fire department and the theatre. The Fire Brigade on the ground floor, and the theatre on the second floor - an example of frontier ingenuity and within just a few months the edifice was opened.


The Theatre Royal, 1930s. Richard Wright Collection

         The participants and the audience came from around the world. But CADA maintained its roots as an English theatre by dubbing it the Theatre Royal and closing each show with God Save the Queen. In England the name Theatre Royal meant the theatre held a patent from the king or queen, but no patent for the Barkerville Theatre Royal has been found.
         The theatre presented a mixed bag of productions, from local songs and poems to popular ballads and music hall songs, melodramas and farces. Performances were held weekly, and in times of need it served as a community hall, an inquest court, a ballroom and a morgue.
         This went well for several years.  Unfortunately Williams Creek had formerly meandered from side to side in the valley where Barkerville was built. The creek rose higher than the main street as mine tailings were sluiced downstream and did not respect the miner’s dams and bulkheads. Periodically the dams would be breached and a slurry of gravel would turn the main street into a sluice trough.  Each time the street and the creek rose higher and buildings had to be jacked up on stilts to escape the rising infill. This was not done at the theatre and after one particularly bad flood the bottom floor of the dual-purpose building was buried. The town’s population was waning and resources were few so the solution was to cut all the way around the building and jack it up.  The second floor became the first, yet somehow the two organizations continued to share quarters.
         By 1934 the building was collapsing and condemned. It was torn down and rebuilt as a community hall in 1937.
         In 1958 the town of Barkerville was declared a provincial historic park and work began to restore the town to the specific year 1870. That meant moving, and in some cases radically altering, buildings historic to the period after 1870.  That philosophy has since changed, but as part of this focus the community hall was re-purposed and re-constructed with a new fa├žade designed to represent the 1870s Theatre Royal.
         The re-created Theatre Royal has now, in 2011, been producing shows longer than the original - 50 years compared with 15 or so. The new Theatre Royal is writing a new history. Newman & Wright are the 6th theatre company to operate in the theatre since it re-opened as a historic site in 1962.


The Theatre Royal, winter 2011.  Richard Wright photo.

         The historic Theatre Royal brought the culture of homeland to the remote gold fields. Theatre, whether it is the recreation of historic variety shows or dramas telling gold rush stories, is an important way to illustrate and complete visitors appreciation and understanding of any mining site.
         Barkerville’s Theatre Royal stage is an opportunity to interpret the artistic, dramatic side of goldrush culture, a culture that brought British Columbia into confederation with Canada, that opened up the interior of the province with trails and roads, and sternwheelers, a landscape and culture that draws people back and back, and won't let others go.

This post is an abstract of a paper given by Richard Wright and Amy Newman at “On the Surface: The Heritage of Mines Mining”, in Innsbruck, Austria, April 2011. The full papers will be published in the conference proceedings.

The conference outreach for Barkerville and Theatre Royal was funded mainly by Newman and Wright Theatre Company, with the welcome assistance of  donations from the Barkerville Heritage Trust, Friends of Barkerville and The Bears Paw Cafe in Wells.

Copyright 2011 Richard Thomas Wright